Jane, my beloved cat, who died this past Saturday. She was 19 years old, and part of my life for 16 of those, so I figured her story deserves to be told. Here is part one, with parts two and three to come later in the week.
When I first met Jane, I was disappointed.
It was the summer before my junior year, and I had decided to live off-campus. My studio apartment was tiny and spartan, but the only thing it really lacked to make it home was a cat. I had heard about the Greater New Haven Cat Project a couple years before, when a woman in the lawyer’s office where I worked managed to box up a mommy feral cat and her kittens that lived in the bushes next to the office’s parking lot. I knew the group rescued strays and were always looking for homes for the cats in their care. All the cats in my family had been rescues – from the Humane Society, a Kmart parking lot, a neighbor who was moving – so I contacted the GNHCP to ask what cats they had available for adoption. They told me there was a three year old female tortie that was in immediate need of a home since her foster was moving out of town. I agreed to see her.
The foster was a law student who was graduating and moving to New York City and, as much as it obviously pained her, she couldn’t bring the cat with her. She greeted me, then called for the cat, and Jane came running into the room, then ground to a halt when she saw me.
She wasn’t what I expected. I had wanted an affectionate and pretty cat, and Jane was shy with mottled brown, tan and black fur. As disappointed as I felt, though, I didn’t have the heart to turn her down. If I didn’t take her in, she would go into a cage to await someone else willing to adopt her, and how long would that be?
When I first brought Jane into my apartment, she sniffed every single square inch of the place…then hid under the couch and refused to come out. I waited patiently, reading and browsing the web for a couple hours. She stayed hidden. Finally, I got a can of tuna. The minute I peeled back the top, Jane came creeping out. She let me pet her while she ate the tuna, and we were friends from that moment on.
She was still very shy at first. Whenever other people came into the apartment, she would go right back under the couch. My friends would joke that they didn’t believe I even had a cat, because they never saw her. It took a while, but eventually she would come out to sniff at the occasional hand, endure the occasional pat. When we were alone, though, she would curl up in my lap while I studied, or at my feet while I slept. Like many cats, she had an uncanny ability to know when I was feeling sad or stressed (all too often that year) and would come to me purring, butting her head against my leg or my arm.
My senior year, I decided to return to campus, which meant I needed to find a place for Jane for the year. My good friend Sarah, who had graduated the year before, offered to take her in. It seemed like a good arrangement for both of them; Jane had someone who would take good care of her, and Sarah had an increasingly friendly cat to keep her company and make her own place feel like home that first year out of college.